Much Music 1989

Interviewed by Christopher Ward
Transcribed by: Andrew Tay aka "Ant"

Ward: Robert, the new album is called "Disintegration". Is there a theme to this album?

Robert: The whole... sort-of... the project was triggered by me writing the words to the song Disintegration about last April, around the time of my 29th birthday last year. And it's just about the sense of falling apart that I can't ever seem to shake off. But I think it's true for everyone, really. Um, that sort-of triggered-off a whole sudden blurge of words over a two month period. I just wanted the group--if we were gonna do something else after the Kiss Me album, I knew that I wanted us to do something that had a bit of intensity to it, so that I could spend some time, um, getting back into the things we used to do a few years ago. A bit more bite to them, rather than just sort-of pop stuff.

Ward: Did you feel that there were a lot of things you had to purge before turning 30?

Robert: Um... no, just the notion of turning 30. It's kind-of the paradox, I think, that you're forced into accepting age the older you get. But, um, I still try and sort-of fight against it--I mean against the sort-of the, um, the mental decline and the physical decline that comes with age. That-sort-of-that your loss of... um... a sense of wonder at things. I mean, having nephews and nieces, it's brought home ever more frequently how old I'm getting, just like inside my head; of not being fascinated by things that I used to think were really fascinating. It's a bit worrying 'n' it's a bit sad, y'know, so I try and fight against it by doing something, like writing songs.

Ward: What do you do to keep your curiosity alive?

Robert: I spend a lot of time with my nephews and nieces, and it's really healthy. I don't think--I wouldn't like the idea of being a father, I don't think, 'cause the responsibility side of it creeps in. But it's good being an uncle... something very off-hand; I don't ever have to tell 'em off. I teach them how to do all the bad things (grins), y'know, and the mums and dads say they shouldn't be doing that.

Ward: Lovesong sounds like, perhaps the most traditional thing that you've ever written. Are you proud of it for that reason. (In the original broadcast, Ward asked: "What's behind Lovesong, from the new LP?", but this appears to have been edited-in afterwards.)

Robert: Yeah, it was cause me 'n' Mary got married last year and I couldn't think of what to give her, for a wedding present (laughs), so I wrote her that song... cheap and cheerful... she would've preferred diamonds, I think, but... I dunno... she might look back and be glad that I gave her that.

Ward: The lyrics sound very much like a stream-of-consciousness style of writing. What starts off a Cure song?

Robert: I've been struggling to write a lot of the words, over the years. About 75% of them come when I'm in some kind of altered state (smiles)... either through... self induced, or I'm half asleep, or on a bus, or y'know, at home, under my pillow and things. The two songs on the... um... on Disintegration, Lullaby and Lovesong, were the only two songs I sat down and wrote as songs. The others were all just--I'd sort-of piece them together. And there very rarely is a song ever written in go, either, I usually piece two or three bits of writing together so that they--it doesn't mean just one thing. Which is where a lot of the obscurities come from over the years (grins). I mean I've, looking back, I find it difficult to decipher some of the things I've written, y'know.

Ward: One of the wonderful sides about the Cure's career have been the series of videos done by director Tim Pope. The almost seem like a playful way of off-setting the music. Is that what you intended?

Robert: Yeah. I think certainly since the very first one, since Let's Go to Bed, we've relied on him to pull something out of a song that maybe we're not even aware of, like a funny side to the songs. The ones like Close to Me,... and the sort-of... and Lullaby that are really striking, I think that have actually helped us form an image which has become so disparate that it's actually quite good. I mean, on the one hand, we're doing songs like Disintegration, performing on stage, 'n' it's like, it's really overpowering; everyone's just going (make's awe-struck face) and then we're on screen 'n' I'm being eaten by a big furry spider. It's, y'know... it's good because people can't form a set opinion about what The Cure is.

Ward: I can only imagine that the departure of longtime friend Laurence Tolhurst must have been a very difficult time for you.

Robert: Um, it was a very slow and inevitable process, really, that started with the Kiss Me album. But I mean it hasn't terminated our friendship at all. Again, everyone that's been in The Cure--there's now six people who've been in The Cure and aren't in The Cure at the moment--um, and of that turnover, I haven't... I don't speak to only one of them; I speak to the other five, so there's never any kind of acrimony when people leave the group or rejoin. It's um, I mean I've known Lol since I was--since my first day of school--I met him when I was five, so I mean it would be a bit difficult to have any sort-of bitterness, really. Um, he just drifted apart, mentally and spiritually away from what I wanted to do with the group. But there's no big deal about it. There's always been that understanding with the group; it's a very democratic process when we're working together, but if I want to drag the group somewhere, everyone has the choice to go that way or not. But, um, there's just a lot of things with Lol, he just wasn't really that interested anymore, just in being in the group, really. He was socializing with other people that we didn't really get on with, which doesn't help... people coming backstage that you can't stand. It's like, when it all added up, we just reached a point where his presence around the others--it didn't really bother me that much because I could sort-of like shut him out--but there was an awful lot of bitterness building up, and I didn't really want it to end in sort-of squabbling, on tour 'cause it would've been... you know, it would've taken away from the fun side of what you can do. So he's alright about it. He got married (smiles), and he invited us to his wedding, so he can't be (mumbles incomprehensibly).

Ward: You've said that definitely this would be The Cure's last tour. Is there anything that could change your mind?

Robert: No. No... um... I think for people on the outside, the... the notion of touring, that immediately people think we're not going to ever play again, but if we feel like playing, I wouldn't rule out us playing; but I certainly would never embark on a tour. It's just the attitude involved, like the mental attitude is completely different: saying we would do a charity concert at Christmas for whatever, y'know, wherever it was in the world is completely different to setting off on a six or seven week trip to promote yourself, which is basically what you're doing all the time 'n' doing this (meaning interviews). It's just after this amount of time--it's been about 13 years now--I feel like we're still on the up-and-up all the time and I would really like the group to stop before y'know we go into a decline, which is inevitable, I think, for any band. Um, just the way that we do things; the way that we perform, our attitude offstage as much as on... um... there's just like lots of little things and there's a lot of little personal reasons that I just don't feel that comfortable with being stared at so much anymore. I think the most difficult thing is the addictive nature of like that kind-of sense of being stared at and the adulation. It is--I mean it's really--it does feed on your vanity to an enormous degree... and sometimes it's really good fun 'n' I'd be stupid and dishonest to deny it. But it can reach a point when... if you lose sight of the actual reason why you're on stage and why you're performing to people, the thing just becomes very hollow, and I think that's what happens to too many people. And I wouldn't really like it to happen to us, after all the things we've done; it would sort-of--it would take away from things, I think.

Ward: You mention the--looking out at the audience, and that strange aspect of being stared back at. How is it for you, when here are all these Robert Smith look-alikes down there, right in front of the stage, looking back at you?

Robert: (grins) I've got such short sight, I rarely see any of them. A lot of people when I'm... (mumbles something incomprehensible) ...why you look a certain way. It's actually--in some of the small provincial towns and even some of the big cities--but it's kind-of an identification. It's like a gang. And people actually look a certain way so that if they're walkin' down the street and they see someone standing on the street corner and they look a certain way, they know they can go and talk to them, they have thing's in common. So it's almost like a badge. But it's not actually adulation, and I think a lot of people misinterpret that. They're actually like... it's a kind-of gang uniform, which I think is quite swell. I mean, the people are very protective of the group. But it's rarely that I find someone that actually wants to be me, y'know, they just want to look a certain way because they're showing-off that they like certain things. I mean, it's not just The Cure; I think, looking a certain way, you take in a whole gamut of things. People at Cure concerts don't just go to stand and stare at us; they go to talk to other people at the Cure concert. And it's... there's a lot more to it than us just playing on stage.

Ward: Now, I've heard talk of a Robert Smith solo record; is that in the offing?

Robert: Yeah, I finished recording that... it's about 18 months ago, now. But, um... it's not something that I... At the time, there were various reasons for making it. One was just because I'd got all these songs and I'd had them for so long and I knew the Cure were never gonna do them, and I just felt in the mood to go and record, so I did. And another one was I wanted to kind-of spur the group into action--it seemed like a good way of setting everyone up, thinking 'ah, a solo record.' It made everyone sort-of like jump in and say 'let's do something with the group.' It's not like a solo career, 'cause I mean, anything that I can, y'know, that I wanna do, I'd prefer to do with a group, really.

Ward: Are you looking down the road at other projects that you'd like to do, aside from recording, now that presumably without the tour you'll have more time to do things?

Robert: Well, one of the things that I keep trying to get involved in is scoring an entire film soundtrack--not just contributing to... like a song, but to actually sit down from the start of a project and work right thorough. Like Peter Gabriel did with Birdie, or something like that. It's um... I just think that it would be very different to sort-of work within those parameters, and I just think it would be good fun to do. So that's what I'm looking to do, but it's a very difficult area to break into. It's very closed shop, the film world, so it's taken ages to try and get to know the right people. But, um, that's what I'd like to see the group doing in the time that we've saved not touring.

Ward: Any non-musical projects?

Robert: ...Staring at the sky, reading books... I don't--things like that I don't think you can plan. Anything that I've ever been involved in that something's come out of it, something creative, it just happens. It's not--it would be really dreadful, I think, to start planning things 'n' think 'well, now I'm gonna go and write'. Things don't happen like--only good things very rarely happen like that. I'll just do whatever I feel like doing, I suppose... if I'm lucky.

... and that's all folks...

Last Revised: Monday, 15-May-2006 15:00:01 CDT

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